From statewide road trippin’ to deserted beaches, outback or city adventures, Christmas has come earlier for tourism operators in NSW with intrastate travel for the fully vaccinated to be allowed from mid-October.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday outlined the state’s path out of lockdown, as another 1405 COVID-19 cases were reported.
From the first Monday after the state reaches 70 per cent full vaccination coverage – expected to be October 18 – a slate of restrictions will be eased for the fully vaccinated.
Catching a movie at the cinema, going to the gym, dining out and having a small number of household guests over are all back on the cards, as is travel to the state’s regions.
In response to the news, Qantas and Jetstar have announced they will launch a special sale for travel on regional NSW routes to coincide with the NSW Government’s expected reopening of travel for the fully vaccinated from Monday 18 October 2021.
So, if you’re jabbed and in desperate need of a break, you can get excited because Jetstar is offering discounted fares ready for the state’s #ArrivalRevival, including $39 fares from Sydney to Byron Bay (Ballina).
Virgin Australia also launched a domestic airfare sale earlier this week, with fares starting from $49.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond says the reaction from struggling tourism and entertainment businesses across the state is a huge relief.
“There’s no doubt that this is a twinkly light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” she said.
“This will put a serious spring in the step of everybody from cinemas to restaurants to attractions to hotels, aviation, airports – you name it.”
The September school holidays will be the state’s fourth under some kind of restrictions, and regional operators have felt the sting.
“The four school holidays that had been lost already nationally have cost nearly $22 billion,” Ms Osmond said.
“This won’t fill the gap under any circumstances, but it will give them a shot in the arm and an opportunity to survive.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson shares Ms Osmond’s excitement.
“Having been closed for so long we certainly welcome this announcement from government,” he said.
“Having time to prepare is also important as we expect an influx of regional travel … given people have been cooped up for such a long time.”
NSW Tourism Industry Council executive manager Greg Binskin urged businesses to make sure they’re ready for the demand.
“Don’t get caught flat-footed and wait until it’s too late,” he said.
Discussions on the vaccination of staff, how jab certificates will work, and whether some areas with low cases will be able to trial the systems in advance are ongoing, Ms Osmond said.
“There’s still quite a bit of work on the details to be done so people know exactly what’s going to happen on the ground and so do businesses, but this is terrific news.”
However, it won’t be enough to help tourism and entertainment businesses recover from almost two years of heartache.
Further financial support will be needed, Ms Osmond and Mr Johnson said.
“We’re very hopeful that there’ll be a specific extension for the tourism and hospitality sectors of (the NSW government’s) JobSaver payments,” Ms Osmond said.
“We’d also certainly like the federal government to understand that our industries have particular needs that are unique to them … and we need JobKeeper.
“We simply can’t recover with all this continuing uncertainty about state or international borders.”
Both CEOs are also hopeful other states will follow NSW’s lead and ease border restrictions so families can be reunited at Christmas.
Ready to get inspired? Head over to visitnsw.com.au for more.
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